Records that Sound Best on the Right Early Pressing

Roy Wood – Boulders

More Roy Wood

More Psych Rock

  • Big, rich and solid on both sides, with a more relaxed, musical quality, as well as the clarity that was missing from most copies we played
  • “With the exception of harmonium by Abbey Road engineer John Kurlander on ‘Songs of Praise,’ all the instrumentation on Boulders was played by Wood, who also provided all lead, harmony and backing vocals.” – Wikipedia
  • 4 1/2 stars: “An intricate, deliberately idiosyncratic record, assembled piece by piece, Boulders perfectly captures Roy Wood’s peculiar genius, more so than anything else he recorded. All of his obsessions are here — classical music, psychedelia, pre-Beatles pop, pastoral folk ballads, absurdist humor, studio trickery, and good old-fashioned rock & roll — assembled in a gracefully eccentric fashion.”
  • If you’re a Psych Rock or Art Rock fan, this is a classic from 1973 that belongs in your collection.

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The Doors / The Soft Parade – What Happens When the Gold Label Doesn’t Have the Best Sound on Both Sides?

It gets marked the sonic grade it earned.

If a Big Red E label pressing sounded better to us on side two, if it somehow managed to sound better than any of our Gold Label originals, then it would earn the top grade on side two.

Here is how we described a killer copy we had not long ago:

With a Triple Plus (A+++) shootout winning side two and a Double Plus (A++) side one, this copy is practically as good as it gets. The sound on this Gold Label pressing is incredibly powerful — big, rich, full-bodied, present and lively. It’s HUGE, RICH, and FULL-BODIED, exactly the way it should be.

But note that side two was clearly not as good as side one. Even the best early pressings cannot be relied on to get both sides right. The pressing above is proof. We discuss the issue in the commentary below.

What are the sonic qualities by which a Pop or Rock record — any Pop or Rock record — should be judged?

Pretty much the ones we discuss in most of our Hot Stamper listings: energy, vocal presence, frequency extension (on both ends), transparency, spaciousness, harmonic textures (freedom from smear is key), rhythmic drive, tonal correctness, fullness, richness, three-dimensionality, and on and on down the list.

When we can hear a good many of the qualities mentioned above on the side we’re playing, we provisionally award it a Hot Stamper grade. This grade is often revised over the course of the shootout, as we come to more fully appreciate just how good some of the other copies are.

Once we’ve been through all our side ones, we then play the best of the best against each other and arrive at a winner. Other copies have their grades raised or lowered depending on how they sounded relative to the shootout winner.

Repeat the process for the other side and the shootout is officially over. All that’s left is to see how the sides of each pressing match up.

That’s why the most common grade for a White Hot Stamper pressing is Triple Plus (A+++) on one side and Double Plus (A++) on the other.

Finding the two best sounding sides from a shootout on the same LP does happen, but it sure doesn’t happen as often as we would like (!) There are just too many variables in the mastering and pressing processes to ensure that level of consistency.

But some pressings pull it off, triumphing over all comers and winning the shootout for both sides. These very special Triple Triple pressings have their own section, separate from our White Hot Stamper pressings. If you want the ultimate in audiophile sound for any particular title, this is where you will find it.

At the time of this writing there were about four times as many records with one White Hot side as there were records with White Hot Stamper sound on each side.

Record shootouts may not be rocket science, but they’re a science of a kind, one with strict protocols we’ve developed over the course of many years to ensure that the sonic grades we assign to our Hot Stampers are as accurate as we can make them.

The result of all our work speaks for itself. We guarantee you have never heard this music sound better than it does on our Hot Stamper pressing — or your money back.

Hot Stampers of The Soft Parade

Letters and Commentaries for The Soft Parade

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The Dillards – Wheatstraw Suite

More of The Dillards

More Folk Rock

  • Stunning sound for this original Elektra Gold Label pressing with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades and playing as quietly as these early pressings ever do
  • This is a SHOCKINGLY well recorded album, full of Tubey Magic and as relaxed, smooth and natural as any record from 1968 has a right to be
  • 4 1/2 stars: “It never got any better than this… 13 all-but-perfect tracks… this is a finer rural/rock fusion album than Sweetheart of the Rodeo, the first Flying Burrito Brothers album, or the Beau Brummels’ efforts during this same period, and an indispensable part of any collection of ’60s music.”

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June Christy – The Misty Miss Christy

More June Christy

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  • An original Turquoise Label Capital Mono LP with INCREDIBLE Shoutout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • Both sides here are wonderfully rich and sweet – it’s hard to imagine June sounding much better than she does here
  • All the top West Coast jazz guys are here: Shelly Manne, Bud Shank, Bob Cooper, and the arrangements are by the wonderfully talented Pete Rugolo
  • 4 1/2 Stars: “… The Misty Miss Christy mostly stays on auto-stroll with a wealth of subtle and sophisticated orchestral charts. The jazz-pop environs come courtesy of longtime arranger Pete Rugolo and optimally frame the singer on highlights like “That’s All,” “I Didn’t Know About You,” and “Dearly Beloved.” Both an essential Christy title and one of the best vocal albums from the ’50s.”
  • If you’re a fan of Miss Christy’s, or vintage Pop and Jazz Vocals in general, this is a Top Title from 1956 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1956 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Both sides of this ’50s All Tube Recorded and Mastered record are just as rich and relaxed as you would expect. The balance is correct, because the top is there as well as the bottom.

June is no longer a recording — she’s a living, breathing person. We call that “the breath of life,” and this record has it in spades. Her voice is so rich, sweet, and free of any artificiality, you immediately find yourself lost in the music, because there’s no “sound” to distract you.

Need a refresher course in Tubey Magic after playing too many modern recordings or remasterings? These June Christy records are overflowing with it. Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience, dead-on correct tonality — everything that we listen for in a great record is here.

If you’re a fan of vintage female vocals –- the kind with no trace of digital reverb — you may get quite a kick out of this one. And unless I miss my guess, you’ll be the first and only person on your block to own it! (That’s not a bad thing considering the average person’s taste in music and sound these days.)

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George Harrison – All Things Must Pass

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More of The Beatles

  • With superb sound on all six sides, this early British box set of All Things Must Pass will be very hard to beat
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl for this set – most of the copies we see are heavily played and prone to marks that repeat
  • If you’ve struggled with domestic pressings and later imports or Heavy Vinyl reissues, your troubles are over – here is the sound you were looking for
  • 5 stars: “Without a doubt, Harrison’s first solo recording is his best. Drawing on his backlog of unused compositions from the late Beatles era, Harrison crafted material that managed the rare feat of conveying spiritual mysticism without sacrificing his gifts for melody and grand, sweeping arrangements.”
  • A Must Own Title from 1970
  • The complete list of titles from 1970 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here

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Ellington-Basie – First Time – The Count Meets the Duke

More Duke Ellington

More Count Basie

  • With superb Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides, this early Columbia 6-Eye pressing will be very hard to beat
  • Reasonably quiet vinyl too, considering its age – how many early ’60s Columbia Stereo pressings survived with audiophile playing surfaces the way this one did?
  • Huge amounts of three-dimensional space and ambience, along with boatloads of Tubey Magic – here’s a 30th Street recording from 1961 that demonstrates just how good Columbia’s engineers were back then
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Ellington’s elegance and unique voicings meet Basie’s rollicking, blues-based Kansas City swing, and it works gloriously. The Duke and his band accentuate their swinging dance band side, while Basie and company have never sounded as suave and exotic as when playing Billy Strayhorn arrangements. Everyone has a good time, and that joy infuses this album from start to finish.”
  • If you’re a fan of either or both of these jazz giants, this Classic from 1961 belongs in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1961 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here

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Paul McCartney – McCartney

More Paul McCartney

More Beatles

  • This copy of McCartney’s Apple debut boasts killer Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from first note to last
  • Both sides are big and rich, with plenty of low end, strong midrange presence and the kind of spatiality that will fill your entire listening room
  • Record Collector highlighted “Every Night”, “Junk,” and “Maybe I’m Amazed” as songs that “still sound absolutely effortless and demonstrate the man’s natural genius with a melody.”
  • A Top 100 pick and Paul McCartney’s One and Only Masterpiece – a Must Own when it sounds this good!

The best tracks here have the quality of LIVE MUSIC in a way that not one out of a hundred rock records do. The music jumps right out of the speakers and fills up the room. (more…)

McDonald and Giles – McDonald and Giles

More Prog Rock

More Recordings Engineered by Brian Humphries

  • You’ll find incredible sound on both sides of this very well recorded proggy album
  • These early UK pressed sides are full of the kind of Tubey Magic that makes us (and other right-thinking audiophiles) swoon – thanks Brian Humphries!
  • If you like early King Crimson – they were in the band don’t you know – you will surely get a big kick out of this one-of-a-kind sleeper from 1970
  • 4 stars: “The main attraction is really the performances turned in by McDonald and the Giles brothers — they all sound fabulous…”
  • If you’re a Prog Rock or Art Rock fan, this is a classic from 1970 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1970 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Brian Humphries engineered the album, and although you may not be all that familiar with his name, if you’re an audiophile you know his work well. Take a gander at this group:

  • Traffic – John Barleycorn Must Die
  • Black Sabbath – Paranoid
  • Traffic – The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys
  • Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here

Two are of course on our Top 100 Rock and Pop List, and all four — five if you count McDonald And Giles — qualify as State of the Art Rock Recordings from the era. (more…)

Marshall Crenshaw / Mary Jean & 9 Others – A Desert Island Disc

This is my favorite roots rock record of all time. I love the album and have played it many, many hundreds of times. It starts off with the driving This Is Easy and never lets up until the very last song, a beautiful ballad, “They Never Will Know.”

The All Music Guide had this to say about MC’s first 3 albums: “…an irresistible combination of masterful pop and vibrant, timeless rock & roll.” They weren’t that impressed with this album, but I cannot for the life of me understand why.

I think this is the album where Marshall got it all together: his best songs, his best production, his most tightly knit band, his best guitar solos — the best the guy had to offer is right here.

How does somebody play the same record 100’s of times? I have it on tape in my car, backed with one of my favorite Bonnie Raitt albums, Nine Lives. I can sing along with every song and know every guitar lick by heart. This music may sound simple on the surface, but it has the essence of great popular music. The songs are both heartfelt and catchy, with the kinds of hooks that remind me of the early Beatles.

If you like Buddy Holly, or any of the people that have been influenced by him to produce straight ahead rock and roll, you should like this.

If you have the kind of “delicate” stereo that can’t play loud, hasn’t much bass, or can’t move much air, this is not the record for you. This record is supposed to ROCK. If you don’t have a big system that can do that, you’re wasting your time trying to get this record to do what it wants to do.

It’s not a particularly good sounding record, which is why you have never seen a Hot Stamper pressing of it on our site. But the music is so good we think you can get past the sound and just enjoy the songs for what they are: great.

Hot Stamper Pressings of Roots Rock LPs

Reviews and Commentaries for Roots Rock LPs

Albeniz / Turina – Iberia / Danzas Fantasticas

More of the music of Isaac Albeniz (1860-1909)

Decca and London Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

  • A huge hall, correct string tone, spacious and open as practically any orchestral recording you can find
  • Listen to the plucked basses – clear, not smeary, with no sacrifice in richness. Take it from us, the guys that play classical recordings by the score, this is hard for a record to do!
  • Ernst Ansermet conducted some of the best sounding records ever made — here are some of the ones we’ve reviewed

The sound of this copy is so transparent, undistorted, three-dimensional and REAL, without any sacrifice in solidity, richness or Tubey Magic, that we knew we had a real winner on our hands as soon as the needle hit the groove.

We were impressed with the fact that it excelled in so many areas of reproduction. The illusion of disappearing speakers is one of the more attractive aspects of the sound here, pulling the listener into the space of the concert hall in an especially engrossing way.

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